Next week is the inaugural Fight for Children Week

Fight for Children, known for sponsoring the annual fundraiser Fight Night, is trying something new and innovative in an effort to focus attention on the importance of early childhood education.  Fight for Children Week is being held Monday, September 25th through Friday, September 29th and includes activities for community members, educators, business leaders, and policy makers.

Let’s start with ways that the community can show support for Fight for Children’s mission “to ensure that all kids in Washington, D.C., especially those in the highest need areas, receive a quality early education and a solid foundation for future success.”  There are promotions at multiple area restaurants where a portion of proceeds will go to support Fight for Children:

  • Month of September:  $1 from the sale of each slice of the Pie of the Month from Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Seafood,
  • Week of September 24th to 30th:  Proceeds from the sale of all of D.C.’s Taylor Gourmet’s Cookies for Children,
  • Monday, September 25th:  10% of sales from Cava at Dupont Circle during the hours of 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. when you mention Fight for Children at check-out,
  • Wednesday, September 27th:  &pizza will donate $2 from the sale of every pizza from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chinatown, Dupont Circle, and Columbia Heights locations but the digital flyer must be shown at checkout, and
  • Thursday, September 28th:  20% of sales from the Roti Modern Mediterranean at 1629 K Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. but the digital flyer must be shown at checkout.

Follow Fight for Children on Facebook and Twitter to obtain the digital flyers.

Events for educators, business leaders, and policy makers include:

  • Tuesday, September 26:  Coffee, Conversation, and Controversy is an invitation-only breakfast series that will bring people together to discuss important topics around early education.  The goal of the discussion “is to identify concrete actions that can be taken by key members of the community to further improve the educational experiences and outcomes for D.C.’s youngest citizens.”  The first session will focus on the subject of implicit bias and will be moderated by Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, the Director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale University Child Study Center.
  • Wednesday, September 27:  Organizations are encouraged to have employees wear jeans to work and make a donation to Fight for Children while communicating the importance of early childhood education.  There will be a special media event on this day and people who share pictures of themselves in jeans on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #Jeans4Children could win tickets to Fight Night.
  • Thursday, September 28th:  A daylong conference for teachers and leaders on topics such as Quality Project-Based Learning in the Early Years, Children Are Citizens: Reflecting on a Year of Inquiry, Global Artifacts:  Using Objects to Help Kids Consider Perspectives, Leading Their Own Learning:  Early Elementary Explorations of Their Neighborhood, and Seeing With All Our Senses.  The event is being held at the FHI 360 Conference Center.
  • Friday, September 29th:  Volunteer at Eagle Academy PCS, a Fight for Children partner school.  More information to come.

Additional details about these events can be found here and at the Fight for Children website.

The organization highlights the following information about the importance of high quality early childhood education.  For low-income children lacking this type of schooling:

  • 25% more likely to drop out of school
  • 40% more likely to become a teenage parent
  • 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime

It looks like a truly exciting week to help our youngest neighbors get off to a great start in life.

 

 

D.C.’s St. Coletta Public Charter School gets special education admissions preference

Last evening, during a quiet monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board when attendance at the session barely reached a quorum of board members and IDEAL Academy PCS received its third citation of fiscal mismanagement since March 2016, the body voted to give St. Coletta PCS an admission preference for special education students.

Its an interesting development.  St. Coletta, as described in the meeting’s supporting documentation, is the only charter in the nation’s capital to focus on serving only students with disabilities.  The reputation of the facility is stellar.  The school is in its eleventh year of operation educating 251 scholars ages three to twenty two at its permanent facility located in Ward 7.  The supporting documentation states that “St. Coletta PCS is a specially designed program for students with severe disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities and autism, who require over 25 hours of special education services per their individualized education plans (“IEP”) and the most restrictive learning environment.”

The issue the school has been facing is that, like all charters, admission is on a first-come basis and when more students want to attend than there are spots, a lottery is held.  St. Coletta has found that parents have sought admission for their kids who do not have disabilities.  To best explain this situation I will quote directly from the PCSB staff:

“Once enrolled, if St. Coletta PCS determines a student isn’t eligible for its program
because he or she requires a less restrictive learning environment, the school must
complete an extensive process to review and modify the student’s IEP before
finding the student a more suitable educational placement. By implementing the
proposed special education enrollment preference, St. Coletta PCS will ensure that
the students who will best benefit from its program, those with the highest levels of
disability, have the highest opportunity for enrollment. Without this preference, a
student who does not require any special education services or requires a less
restrictive environment would need to be accepted into the program and could
result in 1) students with higher levels of special education needs not getting into
the program and 2) students losing valuable instructional time as they are assessed
and placed out of St. Coletta PCS to a school that offers a general education program.”

I strongly agree that St. Coletta has a unique and extremely valuable mission that should be supported.  But the preference was granted through the school filing a charter amendment.  My question is whether this is the appropriate process for altering an admission policy.

For example, could KIPP DC PCS now use the same method to give a preference to low income children?  What about another school that wants to teach only kids living in the neighborhood?  Might a charter amendment be utilized to discriminate against those that a charter would rather not let in the door?

My inclination is that something as serious as an admissions preference should be addressed as a revision to the School Reform Act.  In this way the language could be written as not to favor a particular charter but all schools in the sector.  For example, in this instance, the legislation would state that “any charter whose mission is to serve special education students may elect to give an enrollment preference to children who would be best served with these services.”

Public school reform has been successful in D.C. due to the competition for students that choice has promulgated.  Therefore, anything that diminishes the educational marketplace must rise to an extremely high level before it is implemented.  This is why I contend that an action by the D.C. Council, while harder to obtain, is the more suitable path.

The St. Coletta admissions preference will take effect for the 2018-to-2019 school year lottery.  The charter has said that it will employ a sibling preference if the child meets its enrollment criteria.

 

 

 

One size does not fit all in public education

Like so many people my age I’m tired of seeing everyone on the street glued to their cell phones.  But the amazing thing about this trend of staring into glass rectangles is that if you could see what individuals were looking at odds are no two would be viewing the same thing.

We all have different interests and are motivated by different experiences.  This is the exactly the point U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been making on a “Rethinking Schools” tour she has been on for the last seven days in six states.  In Wyoming, at the beginning of her visits, she highlighted this concept, as explained by the Washington Post’s David Von Drehle:

“Most students are starting a new school year this is all too familiar.  Desks lined up in rows.  Their teacher standing in front of the room, framed by a blackboard.  They dive into a curriculum written for the ‘average’ student.  They follow the same schedule, the same routine – just waiting to be saved by the bell.  It’s a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons and denies futures.”

In a beautifully written piece, Mr. Von Drehle describes Secretary DeVos’s time at Kansas City Academy, a six through twelfth grade private school with 76 students.  This is not exactly the type of institution where you would expect to find Ms. DeVos.  As the Post writer observes, the school’s “heavy emphasis on the arts, the environment and social justice makes it an attractive option for progressive families.  School lunches are farm-to-table.”

Protesters joined Ms. DeVos for her visit.  Supporters of the school were aghast that she stopped by.  A student who recently graduated from City Academy said she was “scared of someone coming into the school who disagrees with just about everything they believe.”  This same former pupil went on to indicate that bathrooms at the academy are “trans-friendly.”

Now I will allow Mr. Von Drehle to tell the rest of the story:

“But as she pinched out a clay pot in the ceramics room and whipped up a veggie burger in the culinary room, DeVos was a living reminder that people who disagree about some things don’t have to disagree on everything.  DeVos agrees passionately with one of the founding concepts of Kansas City Academy and the other schools around the country that practice ‘Expeditionary Learning.’   That is:  Not all students learn in the same way or thrive in the same settings.  This realization has sparked innovation in schools over the past generation.  But it does pose obvious challenges to traditional public schools that group students by geographical boundaries rather than individual needs. . .

DeVos finished her 90-minute visit by answering questions from students in government class, where she made a warm impression on students who had found her mean and forbidding on YouTube.  [Tiger] Baker [a senior at Kansas City Academy] said that ‘she was personally nice, respectful – kind of a mom thing.  I loved being able to talk to her personally.’  When asked by the secretary why she chose his school to visit, DeVos replied that she admired the school’s approach to nurturing individuality.”

If we are to finally close the academic achievement gap and bring children living in poverty up to the same scholarly level as affluent families we are going to have to drastically change the way we having been teaching our kids in the past.  This is the point of Ms. DeVos’ trip to Kansas City Academy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FutureEd leaders attempt to re-write history regarding D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program

In a Washington Post editorial that appeared over the weekend, Thomas Toch and Phyllis Jordan, the leaders of the think tank FutureED, attempt to re-write the history of D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, the plan that provides private school scholarships to children living in poverty.  We must not let them.  From the piece:

“The theory behind the initiative is to give D.C.’s low-income families more and better educational opportunities by supplying them with tax dollars to send their children to private schools. Fine. But voucher enrollment in the nation’s capital dropped for four straight years, from 1,638 in the 2013-2014 school year to 1,154 in the 2016-2017 year. More striking, greater than half the new students offered vouchers last year didn’t use them.”

The decline in enrollment was a direct result of years of determined effort by the United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on behalf of President Obama to close the program.  Former D.C. Councilmember Kevin Chavous set the record straight in the Post back in 2012:

“The drop in participants is a natural outgrowth of two unforgiving scheduling decisions. First, the Education Department prevented the program’s administrator from accepting applications after an arbitrary date of March 31 of this year, shutting out anyone who came forward after that cutoff. Then, scholarship lotteries for the 2012-13 school year weren’t allowed to take place until July, far later than many parents could wait to make decisions about where their kids would attend school in the fall. Nobody at the department can give straight answers as to why.

In practical terms, what this means is that only 319 new students were offered scholarships, despite demand for many more.

These roadblocks are part of a long history of the administration’s resolute opposition to the voucher program, from Education Secretary Arne Duncan rescinding 216 scholarships in 2009 to the department ignoring the positive results of a gold-standard study, conducted by its own Institute of Education Sciences, that found that D.C. voucher students graduate at a rate of 91 percent — more than 20 percentage points higher than those who sought a voucher but either didn’t get one or didn’t enroll in the program after being accepted. Because of the delaying tactics of the department, a credible — and federally mandated — new study of the program cannot be conducted unless the program enrolls hundreds of new students next year.”

The obstacles created by the Obama Administration were enough to have Joseph E. Robert, Jr. end his Washington Scholarship Fund’s administration of the OSP back in 2009.  It was then run by the D.C. Youth and Investment Trust Corporation, a group that had no enthusiasm for the job.  In 2015, OSP management was awarded by the Department of Education to Serving Our Children.  SOC has the goal of doubling or tripling the number of scholars participating in the OSP.

Mr. Toch and Ms. Jordan state that the program costs $200 million.  I don’t know where they get their information.  The OSP takes up a minuscule part of the federal budget coming in at $15 million a year.  As part of the three-sector approach equal amounts are awarded to the traditional and charter school sectors for a total of $45 million.  You would really expect more from a think tank associated with Georgetown University.

The FutureED representatives also make a big deal about the percentage of students who elect to utilize the scholarships versus the number awarded.  Let’s just keep in mind that parents fortunately have access to a plethora of school choice in Washington, D.C.  In fact, it is estimated that 75 percent of pupils go to a school other than the one assigned by neighborhood.  We truly have a high performing educational marketplace here in the nation’s capital.

 

 

 

Have D.C. charters cooperated with traditional schools to the point of mediocrity?

The leadership of the D.C. Public Charter School Board touts at every opportunity the collaborative relationship they have with the traditional school system.  For example, just recently a joint letter signed by Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, and Anston Wilson, Chancellor DCPS, was sent out regarding the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.  In addition, Jennifer Niles, the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Education has established a Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force.  But one has to question whether this strategy has now led to the academic achievement of these alternative schools being at the same lower level as DCPS.

There are now clear symptoms that this is exactly what has taken place.  A Washington Post editorial appearing in their newspaper yesterday touts the progress of the regular public schools without hardly mentioning charters that educate 46 percent of all school children in the nation’s capital.  No mention of the years of sweat and battles that charter leaders have endured for equal funding and the acquisition of facilities that have been a major distraction to a concentration on pedagogy.  No credit was given for schools that attracted the kids of so many parents, to the point that DCPS had lost about 30 percent of its population, that public school advocates finally woke up to the fact that something had to be done.  It was then, 10 years ago as the Post editors point out, that Adrien Fenty was elected to head the city’s government,  Mayoral control of the regular schools was instituted, Michelle Rhee was named the first Chancellor, and school modernization projects were started.

Charters did the best they could by fighting with commercial banks and landlords to lease space in their buildings, to obtain closed DCPS classrooms and renovate them at their own expense, and to put on a happy face each and every day while the traditional sector received a million dollars a year more than they did to teach children from the poorest wards in town.

So where has cooperation landed the charter sector?  We have PARCC standardized test scores at par or lower than those of DCPS, there is no solution to the funding inequity issue, and the facility acquisition problem is as intractable as it has ever been.  And the academic achievement gap?  It has grown to over 60 points.

I think its time for a new approach.

D.C. charters start new school year in most perilous environment in decades

Yesterday many D.C. charter schools began the new term along with the traditional schools.  This year marks the most difficult environment for these alternative public schools since they were first created more than 20 years ago.  Allow me to provide a snapshot of what I am seeing.

Let’s start with the release of the PARCC standardized test scores last week.  For the first time since public schools began mandated testing under No Child Left Behind, DCPS actually beat charters in academic achievement.  Readers may assume that this is due to the fact that more affluent families are moving to the District, but the regular schools bested charters in the categories of English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged, and for those students with disabilities in the subject of English Language Arts and for most of these subgroups in math.  Serving these groups of pupils was the justification for creating charter schools in the first place.

Next we had the first school vote to become part of labor union in the case of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School Prep Campus.  Some have argued that with a name like Cesar Chavez it was only inevitable that this would transpire, but how in the world a charter brings innovation and spontaneity to operations negotiated across a boardroom table beats me.   This took place only after Paul Public PCS came close to adopting the same union in the aftermath of the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board writing that the introduction of unions in D.C. charters would increase the diversity of the portfolio of schools it regulates.

By the way,  the union that Chavez joined, the American Federation of Teachers, is headed by an individual who recently equated school choice with Jim Crow laws.  The NAACP has also joined the fray calling for an end to the expansion of charters across the country. Back in the nation’s capital we have a lawsuit against the city brought by Eagle Academy PCS, Washington Latin PCS, and the D.C. Associated of Chartered Public Schools engineered by FOCUS that charges that for years DCPS has received around $100 million in revenue illegally outside of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula.  No solution to this controversy is in site.

Charters are also being criticized by the very organizations that have strongly backed their creation.  Jeannie Allen, founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Education Reform, has accused the movement of isomorphism, which she defines as the “constraining process that forces one unit in a population to resemble the others who face similar environmental conditions.”  She asserts that charters more and more are resembling the very schools they were meant to compete against for students.  One symptom of this isomorphism to which she points is the increasingly bureaucratic nature of our own DC Public Charter School Board, a body often highlighted as doing the best job at overseeing charters in the country.

But the board has had a tough time of it lately.  It had great difficulty deciding whether the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy should be shuttered and that uncertainty led to the school losing its leased space.  It demonstrated agonizing ambiguity over the expansion plans of DC Prep, a decision which should have been as uncontroversial as the staff originally described it to the charter.

But with all of this circulating in the air above our students heads there are still some real positives out there.  For example, D.C. charters have never instructed more children. During the 2016 to 2017 term over 41,000 students attended schools in this sector, equating to 46 percent of all public school students.  This year could see us approach equity with those enrolled in DCPS.  In addition, the facility allotment was recently increased by Mayor Bowser and these dollars, together with the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula revenue, represent the highest level of support charters have ever experienced.  Finally, despite the earlier comments about standardized test scores, some schools such as DC Prep and KIPP DC are demonstrating that the academic achievement gap can be closed.  Now its time for the rest of the group to follow their fine example.

 

Based upon release of 2017 standardized test results, D.C.’s charter school experiment may be wilting

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education released the 2017 PARCC standardized test results yesterday and the findings were sobering.  For all students, including those attending both charter and traditional schools, those scoring in the college and career readiness categories of four and five are just 30.5 percent in reading and 26.9 percent in math.  However, to put a positive spin on the findings, the results are an improvement over last year overall and for all subgroups.  Especially noteworthy is that economically disadvantaged students in both sectors increased in proficiency rates by 5.3 percent in English and 3.8 percent in math.

But it was former DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson who pointed out yesterday on Facebook that for the first time since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002 and since schools were required to make standardized test scores public, the traditional schools led charters in these findings.   For example, in English, charter school students in grades three through eight overall showed 29.5 percent of students at the four and five level while 32.1 percent of DCPS pupils were in this range.  A similar pattern exists in math with 30.6 percent of charter students earning fours and fives while 32.8 percent of DCPS students are in this category.  When it comes to testing in high school, charters do lead the traditional schools slightly in math but the proficiency rate is so low that its nothing to brag about.  For high school English the trend of DCPS leading charters continues.

But charters, which concentrate on teaching poor students, are better than DCPS in this category, aren’t they?  Not according to the 2017 PARCC.  For economically disadvantaged students, in reading DCPS leads charters in proficiency rates 23.7 percent to 23.5 percent. For English Language Learners, DCPS is ahead 17.7 percent compared to 13.7 percent for charters, and for students with disabilities, DCPS is ahead 6.8 percent to 5.8 percent.  Only in math are low income charter school students ahead slightly of those of DCPS but for the other two categories the traditional school students score higher.

A couple of areas where charters do outperform DCPS are the categories of At-risk students and those that are black.  For the first category, charters lead in English 18.2 percent compared to 14.1 percent proficiency for DCPS, and 17.8 percent compared to 11.9 percent in math.  For African-American students, charters scored higher, 24.4 percent to 19.9 percent in English, and in math charters have 22.5 percent of students proficient while DCPS has this statistic at 15.0 percent.

Some charters did post some extremely impressive results.  The following proficiency rates are from the DC Public Charter School Board press release:

English Language Arts

  1. BASIS DC PCS (High School) – 71%
  2. Washington Latin PCS – High School – 71%
  3. Washington Latin PCS – Middle School – 65%
  4. Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS – 58%
  5. Washington Yu Ying PCS – 58%
  6. BASIS DC PCS (Middle School) – 57%
  7. District of Columbia International School – 55%
  8. DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle School – 54%

Math

  1. BASIS DC PCS (High School) – 75%
  2. KIPP DC – Promise Academy PCS – 74%
  3. KIPP DC – Heights Academy PCS – 65%
  4. KIPP DC Spring Academy PCS – 65%
  5. KIPP DC – Lead Academy PCS – 61%
  6. DC Prep PCS – Edgewood Middle School – 57%
  7. BASIS DC PCS (Middle School) – 57%
  8. Early Childhood Academy PCS – 54%

But overall this was not a great report for D.C.’s charter school sector.

DC public schools modernization could learn from charter sector

The Washington Post’s Joe Heim reports today that DCPS’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts will re-open next week after the completion of a renovation project that is $100 million over budget and a year behind schedule.  The total cost of construction is a staggering $178.5 million.  Only 575 students attend the school.

The newspaper goes on to explain that cost overruns such as the one at Ellington are more the rule than the exception when it comes to modernization of the traditional public schools, as was documented in a 2016 study on the issue by D.C. Auditor Kathleen Patterson.  From Mr. Heim’s story, “As Ellington’s budget surged to $178.5 million, spending plans for 35 other DCPS school modernizations grew from $586 million to $1.4 billion.”

Charter schools would love access to this kind of cash.  However, when it comes to capital expenses, even though charters are public schools just like those of DCPS, they are on their own to raise the money for school renovation.  The Mayor and the city council do not provide a dime, leaving it up to the per pupil facility allotment to cover the cost.  This is true even when a charter takes over a shuttered traditional public school facility.

So here’s how it works in the nation’s capital.  A charter is approved to open.  Then it must scramble to find a building, competing for space with other businesses in D.C.’s outrageously expensive commercial real estate market.  If it is able to secure a closed DCPS building, that space has typically been decimated by years of neglect.  Then the charter must pay to fix up the classrooms at its own expense and then pay the city to rent the structure.

Charters are severely limited in the amount of money banks will loan them for this type of work.  There is nothing magical here.  A charter school receives $3,193 per student.  The average charter school has 400 pupils.  This equates to about $1.3 million a year it has to repay a bank for a construction loan.  Charters usually allocate around 100 square feet per child.  Therefore, it needs a building that is around 40,000 square foot and, according to Building Hope, typically spends $150 to $250 per square feet to renovate the space.  For example, when I was board chair of Washington Latin PCS we spent $20 million, the most we could get a bank to loan us, to renovate the former Rudolph Elementary School in Ward 4.  The gym would have to wait to be built at a later date since this was all we could afford.  Latin spent about $267 per square foot on Rudolph or roughly $33,000 per child.  When it comes to Duke Ellington, it cost the city $310,000 per pupil.

Something must be done to even the playing field between charters and the traditional schools when it comes to access to facilities and their renovation.  After 20 years of public school reform in this town, we are no closer to a solution.

New union contract for D.C. traditional school teachers is a boon for charters

The contract is retroactive to last October and includes a four percent pay increase for that year, a three percent increase for the following year, and a two percent raise for year three.  The Post points out that it amounts to a 1.3 percent bump in salary for each year from 2012 to 2019.  Most significantly, it raises the starting salary of new teachers to $56,313 a year, which the writers say is the highest teacher starting compensation in the country.  The agreement also apparently has the fastest route to earning over $100,000 and a new cap at $126,000 a year.

The additional dollars, which needs to be approved by union members and the D.C. Council, would be paid for out of the city’s surplus reserve.

The reporters indicate that because of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula charters would get an additional $51.2 million over three years, roughly equivalent to the 46 percent share of students with DCPS getting $61.6 million.  It is encouraging to see the city comply with the law when it comes to the union agreement.  However, we still have no resolution to the FOCUS-coordinated charter school funding inequity law suit that has been going on now for three years.  As a reminder, when the legal action was taken, it was estimated that charters received over the last seven years $1,600 to $2,600 per student in less revenue compared to the regular schools.  With Mayor Bowser beginning to think about re-election this would be a fantastic moment to settle this matter once and for all.

On another subject, one of the authors of the piece on the DCPS teachers’ contract is Emma Brown.  Ms. Brown announced last week on Twitter that she will be ending her coverage of education to join the Washington Post’s investigative team. While I often strongly disagreed with Ms. Brown, especially regarding her views on private school vouchers, I have found her to be a talented and thorough writer.  Let’s hope that the Post’s educational reporting does not suffer with her transition.

 

D.C. charters: Don’t let yourself become another Chavez Prep PCS

Yesterday the Kojo Nnambi show on WAMU 88.5 featured Cesar Chavez Public Charter School Prep Campus science teacher Christian Herr discussing the decision by his facility to unionize.  I had the opportunity to call in to the program.

Mr. Herr did an admirable job relating his concerns for the students and parents at the middle school that led the staff to bring in the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.  He described massive teacher turnover, indicating that 11 of 36 instructors, or 31 percent, have left in just the last term.  In the five years that he has been with the charter they have had four chief executive officers, four principals and four assistant principals.  Mr. Herr explained that good teachers moved on not to change careers or relocate but to take other lateral positions in Washington, D.C.  He opined that it is impossible for teachers, scholars, and parents to get their feet on solid ground when they are essentially walking into a new school every year.  His effort to bring a union started when employees noticed a lack of transparency around the reasons certain policies and procedures were implemented.

In other words, Mr. Herr is describing many of the conditions that existed at Paul PCS when teachers at that institution were considering joining the same union.  As I’ve pointed out previously, when staff feel unappreciated and not listened to, and there is a perceived lack of transparency by superiors, the environment becomes ripe for union activity.

The charter school movement in D.C. has matured and with our growing knowledge of how to best teach under-served children must also come the strengthening of our skills around management.  Employee satisfaction and engagement have to rise to the top of our priority list.

Unfortunately for Mr. Herr, he will find that the introduction of a union will make matters worse not better.  The presence of a third party sandwiched between staff and administrators is never a good idea, especially at such a small place.  It is especially sad that this group of educators has decided to partner with the AFT whose president recently used racially insensitive language to characterize people who support school choice.  But perhaps others can learn from the experience at Cesar Chavez so that this situation will not be repeated in the future.